Last weekend, while Chana and I were just sitting around the house, she happened to show me something in a flyer. To be perfectly honest with you, I have no idea what that "something" was, though, because a completely different "something" caught my eye instead. And that "something" was a Skype-enabled USB phone. Now, whether you know what that is or not, you might be thinking that it sounds a little on the geeky side...
Okay, just so we're all on the same page here, Skype is a web-based service that allows you to use your PC to call other PCs also running Skype (voice chat, essentially), but can also be used to make and receive calls to and from mobile phones and landlines. The PC to PC method is absolutely free, PC to landline/mobile calls are dirt-cheap (or free in the U.S. and Canada until the end of the year), and a to purchase a number that landline/mobile users can call to reach you on your PC costs about $45CAD per year.
Basically, it's simply the freakin' cheapest telephone setup possible, short of tapping into your neighbor's line.
Don't want to sit around with a headset and mic every time you want to make a call? Yeah, me neither! And that's where the Skype-enabled USB phone comes in. You simply plug this little baby into an available USB port (has anyone ever tried to plug something into an unavailable USB port?) the way you would plug a normal phone into a walljack, get Skype running on your PC, and away you go. Simple, tidy, and (in case I haven't mentioned it) cheap.
So, after seeing that London Drugs, one of our local retailers, was having a sale on these phones, I made a point of stopping in to get one. You see, I don't have a home phone. I have a cell phone, which is better for me because I'm not home enough to have a real phone just sitting there collecting dust and costing money. But, if you've ever had a conversation on a cell phone for more than 3 minutes, you know what a pain it is to hold on to the stupid thing while you try to go about making dinner, washing dishes, or whatever. So, I figured, since this USB-thingy was so cheap, and Skype is so cheap, not to mention that I'm so cheap, I might as well get myself hooked up with the whole thing.
As is my luck, not only had the sale not started yet, but the product hadn't even been delivered. Now, I'm not exactly what you'd call the most patient person in the world, especially when it comes to geeking-out, so I immediately started looking around for other places to buy a Skype phone. Future Shop had one, but it was too expensive. Best Buy had one on sale, but the sale ended the day before. A small shop near where I work had one, but a little research online told me it was garbage. And then I stumbled across one with a name I recognized, got good ratings online, and only cost $26. And the store was right across the street from where I work! Awesome!
Knowing I was going to go get one on my coffee break, I decided to log into my Skype account and purchase a SkypeIn number... You know, sort of get everything set up so I could just go home, plug in my new gadget and wait for someone to call me. And that's when my whole plan came crashing down around me like a house of cards.
It seems that there are no Canadian SkypeIn numbers yet. I can get one in the States, in England, heck, I can even get one in Poland, but then people would have to call there to reach me. Kinda defeats the purpose! I can still use Skype to make calls from my PC, no problem, but nobody can call me.
Apparently, it has something to do with the Canadian Radio-Television Commission not releasing Canadian phone numbers to Skype because Skype does not offer a 911 service. I think that's a load of crap since Skype isn't trying to be a telephone provider, per se, and there are other applications similar to Skype that do offer Canadian numbers, like vbuzzer. I could go with one of those, but I'd be more comfortable sticking with a company and application with a good reputation. I don't want to buy something from somebody, only to find out the quality is crap, you know?
So, no Skype-enabled USB phone for me, for now. Until the CRTC relaxes a bit, I'll have to find something else to do with my computer to ease this current need to geek-out... Any suggestions?